[Representational image]Creative Commons

There are a number of things people do to relieve stress at work: Take a break, have some food, smoke a cigarette or simply talk to colleagues. However, masturbation at work seems to be catching up with the other activities in the list, all the while raising questions on whether it is ethical, hygienic, helpful or even practical.

The entire concept seem taboo — or at least outlandish — at first, but a New York Time Out survey apparently says 39 percent of its male readers who responded to the survey had rubbed one out in office. And the reasons for which they do it varied from feeling tired to being hung-over.

Does it work?

So does masturbating at work really improve efficiency? Psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall was quoted by on whether this should become the norm: "I would expect a masturbation policy to result in more focus, less aggression, higher productivity, and more smiling. Certainly taking a masturbation break for boredom or an escape would increase work focus."

Nottingham Trent University senior lecturer in psychology Mark Sergeant told the publication that taking a break for masturbation would be "very effective at work." He also said that this was a "great way to relieve tension and stress." Although this might fly in the face of etiquette and common social wisdom, it does conform to the old wives' tale of "jerking off before taking an important decision because it helps clear the head".

Is it ethical?

This is the big question, because work and sex life are generally on two different poles for most people. Some might argue that because no second individual is involved in this act, it can be ok if it is done behind closed doors in a manner that does not advertise what is happening inside.

However, psychologists will point out that sexual fantasies about colleagues or co-workers can creep into this act, and that can be especially damaging — for the employee in the short term and for the entire workplace in the long term, because at some point the employee may start projecting these fantasies in real life.

There is also the big question of women's masturbation. Will they be too grossed out by it, and demand a workplace that is sanitised both physically and mentally? Will they feel left out? What about the odd pornographic paraphernalia that is bound to make a rare appearance because some colleague got careless? Will it lead to sexual harassment lawsuits?